NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York and New Jersey governors said Monday their states showed preliminary signs of “flattening” the coronavirus outbreak, but warned of complacency as the death toll nationwide exceeded 10,000 and the number of cases reached 350,000.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said confirmed coronavirus-related deaths reached 4,758 on Monday, an increase of 599 over Sunday, compared to an increase of 594 in the last 24 hours. The state’s death toll increased by 630 on Friday.
Cases in the state, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, increased 7 percent to 130,680 in 24 hours, Cuomo said. Hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, and intubations ̵
“Although none of this is good news, the possible flattening of the curve is better than the increases we’ve seen,” Cuomo said in a daily briefing, referring to the shape of the curve when graphing deaths.
Preliminary signs of progress pushed US stocks up significantly, with the S&P 500 index up nearly 5.5%. The broad index has dropped about 22 percent from its peak on February 19. At its March low, it was more than 30 percent below its peak.
Cuomo warned that the numbers were still grim and uncertain that the state was going around the corner, saying, “If we reach a plateau, we will reach a high level.”
In neighboring New Jersey, the state with the second highest number of cases and deaths, Governor Phil Murphy said in a briefing, “Our effort to smooth the curve is beginning to pay off.” On March 30, there was an increase in positive cases 24 percent a day and a 12 percent increase on Monday.
In total, New Jersey has confirmed more than 41,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,000 deaths.
Murphy warned that easing the cases would overwhelm the health system with “catastrophic” results if the guidelines on social distancing and hand washing were relaxed.
To prevent his state from returning, Cuomo extended until April 29 the order to keep non-essential businesses and schools closed. He also doubled the maximum sentence for ignoring social distance to $ 1,000.
“This virus has hit our rear end,” said Cuomo. “Now is not the time to let up on what we’re doing.”
At least one model offered hope that the death rate in the United States would slow. The University of Washington model, one of several cited by U.S. and some government officials, is now forecasting US deaths at 81,766 through August 4, a decrease of approximately 12,000 from a weekend projection.
White House medical experts have predicted that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans may die in the pandemic, even if the extensive instructions to stay at home are followed.
“PEAK DEATH WEEK”
Despite the hopeful tone in New York and New Jersey, a U.S. national health official said the country is entering Peak Death Week.
The death toll in the U.S., which stood at 10,297 on Monday, was rapidly approaching Italy and Spain, the countries with the most deadly deaths to date, of nearly 16,000 and more than 13,000, according to a Reuters list of official data.
“It will be the highest hospitalization, the highest week in intensive care and, unfortunately, the highest week of death,” Admiral Brett Giroir, doctor and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.
He specifically warned New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Detroit, Michigan.
“Whether you live in a small town in America or in the Big Apple, everyone is vulnerable to it and everyone has to follow the precautions we set,” said Giroir on NBC’s Today show.
More than 90% of Americans are under the command of the governors to stay at home, while eight states still imposed such restrictions.
In Michigan, the governor said, three major health care systems have less than three days for facial shields to go out and less than six days for surgical gowns to go out.
Certain medications that hospitals have to give to patients using ventilators are also running out, said John Fox, president of Beaumont Health, one of Michigan’s largest health systems.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that a shortage of health professionals would replace a lack of equipment as the city’s primary need, calling for an additional 45,000 clinical workers for April.
“The challenge will always be the staff,” de Blasio told reporters in front of a surgical gown manufacturing facility. “We need these supplies, but we also need heroes to carry them.”
The city has reported more than 3,100 deaths and could be temporarily buried in an unspecified park, said Mark Levine, chairman of the New York City Council’s Health Committee.
“We will soon start with the” temporary burial. “This will likely be through the use of an NYC funeral park (yes, you read that correctly). Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a row,” Levine wrote on Twitter “It will be dignified, orderly, and temporary. But it will be difficult for the New Yorkers to endure.”
Levine later told Reuters that the city had not yet identified a parkland as a temporary burial site if necessary.
Reporting by Nathan Layne, Peter Szekely and Barbara Goldberg; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Letters from Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool; Edited by Frank McGurty, Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman